The white paper has been prepared, in part, in response to the 2030 Digital Compass decadal plan produced by the European Commission, which sets out the aim to establish leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing in the European Union (EU). The goal is to operate semiconductor fabrication plants (fabs) with 2nm process nodes within the EU by the end of this decade.
The think tank's white paper (see The lack of semiconductor manufacturing in Europe) concludes that while building and equipping a wafer fab would be technically possible it would only be sustainable if supported by a robust business case. Otherwise it would represent a waste of tens of billions of euros that could be more usefully spent on other things. It would also run against the long-term trend of Europe's reduced investment in chip manufacturing.
Total wafer capacity by region and technology node as of December 2020 (millions of wafer starts per month). Source: Stiftung Neue Verantwortung.
The figure shows Europe has barely invested in chip making over the last 10 years (capacity up 18 percent) while China's capacity has tripled.
The author concludes that Europe creates almost no demand for leading-edge silicon and could not expect to sell chips to areas where the demand is high, essentially the United States. The US fabless chip companies will buy either from TSMC, Samsung or possibly Intel who all have plans for leading-edge fabs in the United States.
Next: What demand?